Friday, November 16, 2012

Google+ for K-12 Edu is Now Available

Google announced yesterday that Google Plus (Google+) is now available for edu domains.

The announcement I received said:

Today, November 15th, we announced that Google+ is available to be enabled as an additional service for all Google Apps for Education domains, including K12 (primary/secondary).  

By default Google+ is set to off for all EDU domains.You can enable Google+ for all or some of your organizational units by following the instructions in our Google Help Center article on how to turn on/off services. Please review important considerations before enabling Google+ in our Google Help Center. Please note that as Google+ is an additional service (like Blogger and Reader) it is not subject to the same terms and conditions as core services such as Gmail and Google Drive. Please review the Google Apps for Education Agreement which includes a link to the Additional Terms for Use of Additional Services.

This is  great news but with it came a bunch of questions. Here are some answers to FAQ's from Google:

  • As stated in the admin panel when you try to turn it on: "Users must meet the minimum age requirements for a Google Account (13 years old in most countries) to use Google+. Underaged users will have their entire account suspended. Learn more"
  • Anyone under 13 that attempts to use Google+ will have their Google Apps account will be suspended. If a student account is suspended, please file a ticket through your administrator control panel and someone from the team will get back to you to help you recover the account.

I had been working on training materials and videos on Google+ for the Midwest Google Apps Summit and I have put together a Google Site on Google+ here: Google+ for Professional Development and Collaboration

My favorite video that I made was on how to use "On the Air" hangouts to record demos or even flip your classroom.

What are you doing with Google Plus? How do you see it impacting the classroom and schools?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Midwest Google Apps Summit 2012

Looks like we are ready to go for the Midwest Google Apps Summit for 2012. The response for the event has been incredible and I am excited for 3 days of learning.

I have all of my materials put together (although I will add and tweak leading up to the presentation).

I cant wait to see everyone there!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Google Scripts - Bulldozer Update

In preparing for the Midwest Google Apps Summit we have updated our bulldozer script - you can get it here. I also put this slide deck together:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Listening to All Voices

The news is dominated today by the events of one national convention going on, another on the way, and a hurricane heading into the Southeast. All three events involve a lot of wind. One thing you can be sure of is that the 24-hour news cycle will be in full swing over the next week. One of the common strategies that will be used will be “people on the street” interviews, where one person will be thrust to the forefront and her perspective will be used to reflect that of everyone experiencing each event. As the school year starts, what will you do to make sure that this same strategy does not happen in your classroom or school? How will you hear all voices and make sure that the one who yells the loudest is not the substitute voice for all? What tools can you leverage to ensure that each student or other members of your school community are heard? How can you personalize learning to recognize students as people first, and learners second? As this year starts, I hope that we will make the effort to listen past whatever is blowing the loudest and find the voices that need us. 

Cross Posted at Tech & Learning

Monday, July 30, 2012

How Many Jobs

This is in response to Doug Johnson's post which examines how many jobs someone has between 18 and 38. Since I just crossed the plateau I thought I would make my list. If you count just the ones I was paid for I easily make the 10.

  • Nursery Assistant - Platt Hill Nursery - helped with trees, shrubs, and compost (a theme that continues)
  • Lab Assistant - Earth Science Department at Concordia University
  • Sales - local teacher store
  • Teacher - Conant High School
    • Science Teacher
    • Band Director
    • Coach
    • Activities Sponsor
  • (graduate student  Roosevelt University)
  • Private Music Lesson Teacher - local music store
  • Director of Youth Ministry - Holy Cross Lutheran Church
  • Consultant - Riverside Publishing
  • Technology Coordinator - Conant High School
  • (doctoral student - Roosevelt University)
  • Educational Consultant - self-employed
  • Adjunct Professor - Roosevelt University
  • Curriculum designer - several colleges
  • Chief Technology Officer - Maine 207
  • SET Connections President (volunteer)
  • ICE Conference Co-Chair (volunteer)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Personalization in Education - Part 2

The first part of this series looked at what it mans to personalize learning and some of the key beliefs one must have to do successfully switch in a new direction. What I want to start to get into is how we do this in our classrooms. We are busy in schools gathering a lot of data. The problem is that we are gathering the wrong kind.

Personalization starts with PERSON. We need to gather more information about the students we serve. We have to gather real data on who they are, what makes them work, how they learn, what they care about, their challenges, their successes, and all of the important DATA. Nobody really wants to learn from a teacher that doesn't care about them and doesn't show interest in them as an individual.

We need to understand students as a person first and a learner second.

We have whole child initiatives out there and lots of big thinkers saying we need to drop standardized test data and become more personal. However, very few are telling how. It can happen know and technology can help make it happen. Personalization can be helped along by using technology to hold conversations with students asynchronously (to leverage time) and then teachers can use those same tools to provide timely feedback.

A conversation with a student offers far more and better data about a student than any test.

There are great tools out there for asynchronous conversation and the world has come to embrace them. Email, text, chat, social messaging all accomplish this. However, we are all afraid to use these technologies to hold a conversation with kids, after all, our litigious society has beaten all of the care out of us. My next post will show you how to use something as simple as a Google form or spreadsheet to set up a communications network that is kept between a teacher and student. The technology is there to allow for these discussions to happen, we just have to value the data.

As a teacher holds individual conversations virtually with students the amount of time they have for each student increases. Teachers know more about each student and can quickly jump to a point in a conversation when meeting up with the student face to face in class. As many of us realize at ISTE12, we communicate all of the time through virtual asynchronous (and sometime synchronous) social networks and when we meet up at a conference we jump right to a point in a larger conversation. The same concept applies to our students in our classrooms

Teachers that do value the information gathered through conversation will use it to adapt instruction and interact with students on a personal level.

Teacher must use what they are learning about their students inside and outside of the classroom through conversation to adapt the learning experience for groups of students or individuals. This becomes even more powerful if we combine the other data sets we are gathering about student progress through formative assessment, information about attendance and discipline, or collaborate with other teachers about a student. However, this type of data is secondary to what we learn through conversation. Even standardized test data may become valuable when folded into a greater personal understanding of a child.

Parents need to be part of the data ecosystem as well.

We rarely give parents the data they need to help us. If all of the data is kept between the student and teacher we are missing a leg in the stool. Parents need to be provided information and be involved in the conversation as well. This can be encouraged to happen from student to parent or teacher to parent. Sometimes a conversation involving the student, teacher, and parent is most appropriate. The seeds of this conversation can also be planted in virtual discussions. Involving the parent empowers them to become an active part of the student's personalized learning experience.

There is nothing more valuable than time.

We show what we value by where we spend our time. We should be spending our time learning about and valuing our students. We need to understand them as people before we try to influence their learning. Too often we dismiss a students ability before we ever get to know them. I believe in the power of human data. Let's use technology to become more human, and use the skills that technology can never replace, to show we care about students and make a difference in their lives.

Personalization in Education - Part 1

It has been great to attend ISTE12 and finally begin to hear some honest buy in and acceptance to the philosophy of personalization of education for each student. I know this has been floating around in the ether for quite a while, I believe it can be tied back to Nel Noddings work on the ethic of care in the classroom (and probably before that). I was researching this in the early 2000's while working on my dissertation and am glad to see the rest of the community grab on and embrace the concept.

Here is the general idea behind personalized learning: the teacher finds a way to know about each individual student to be responsive to their needs just at the right time they need to be guided in the right direction. As Yong Zhao has pointed out, we have made the mistake in education (actually by policymakers around education) to believe that this can be accomplished by standardized testing. NCLB was quick to prove that the type of data we were gathering was not adequate to cause change quickly enough for individual students. We are not getting the right type of data back in a timely fashion. To be able to deliver what a student needs just in time we need more data that we can use. Of course, the policymakers immediately try to add in more of what is not working by testing more. I understand the response, it is quite logical, if a little doesn't work - more must.

However, we are doing more of something that is harmful to our students and teachers. As Sir Ken Robinson has said - we are mining our students talents for specific purposes and in the process destroying divergent thinking and creativity. At the same time, I believe we are taking a teachers, a group of people that got into the people business because at some level they are talented at learning and gifted at sharing that love with others, and destroying that gift by causing them to analyze the wrong set of data; a set of data that tells them very little about the students they work with.

We need to invest in a new data set. We need to rededicate ourselves to being interested in our students as people. We need to start caring again. We need to start gathering data about our students by listening to them OFTEN. They need to connect to their teachers. Students have to feel that they belong to a group of learners, they need to be empowered to have a voice in the learning experience, and they need to have the opportunity to use what they learn to create products that have meaning and value to them.

I believe that personalized learning values Caring, Belongingness, and Efficacy allowing for student to:

    • Creatively connect to ideas, resources, and people
      • Through creating, building, producing, and doing
        • Followed by reflectively synthesizing new knowledge and understanding
          • To create new questions, problems, and areas of interest.
My next blog post looks at why we can do this now and how technology can actually help us become more connected to our students and to help show how we care. I am working that piece now and hope to get it out today.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Retire the "21st Century" in "21st Century Learning"

At the start of ISTE12 I tossed out a concept through twitter that was discussed in the School CIO conference preceding ISTE. I proposed that we should retire "21st Century Learning" and start calling it "Learning". It has caused quite a discussion in twitter and I have had some great intellectual exchanges over it. I wanted to take this venue as a place to put my thoughts on the concept together.

Here is the general idea: words matter

All of the discussion on PLC's show us that a common vocabulary means something when working with groups of people. Over the course of the past 15 years 21st Century Learning has developed as a term to prepare educators for what was coming when technology became a common and essential part of society, children, families, and learning.

So let's just admit what happened. The 21st Century came and we were not ready. Some screamed for change and some resisted - others just rode the wave.  The 21st Century started a dozen years ago and technology is here. In the ISTE12 keynote we heard that the number of cellphones will soon outnumber people on this planet. Accessibly to technology, while still lacking in many areas, is becoming more pervasive across the world. Slowly the peaks and valleys of technology access will erode and the world will truly be flat. But for this conversation, that doesn't matter. What matters is the Internet changed the way that the world communicates, accesses information, and shares information, some of the key components of learning, and has led to a new way the world learns to change. 

21st Century learning is here, it isn't going away, so let's just call it "learning". We are all starting to understand what good teaching and learning looks like. We can quantify the science and qualify the art - and can see when students succeed and when they do not (we just have to be willing to look).  Teachers that ignore the change that has already happened will face increasing pressures to change or leave the profession. Let's just call it learning. We know many of the basic building blocks of learning, and some of these involve the use of resources (including technology). Let's recognize those teachers that create excellent learning environments and experiences and celebrate their accomplishments in promoting LEARNING in this century, the last, or any into the future.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Google Apps for Education - Safety and Security

Recently we had a question come across the Google Apps User Group message board about GAFE security and privacy. Here is the list of questions:

1.) Does Google meet HIPPA compliance?
2.) Does Google meet FERPA compliance?
3.) Is an additional encryption tool need for Google email?
4.) If we put children's names and other demographic information on the calendars, is it secure?
5.) If we decide to use the forms and data collection functions of Google, is it secure?
6.) Is there any documentation to support that Google Apps are secure?

The first links to visit are:

I also have a presentation that goes through many of these: 

Although I am not a lawyer, here are my direct answers to these questions:

1.) Does Google meet HIPPA compliance? - Most schools are not subject to HIPPA guidelines, these records are instead covered by FERPA: 
2.) Does Google meet FERPA compliance? - Yes, since you control the accounts and are the only one that can see personally identifiable student information - and retain all control over that information. More FERPA references here:
3.) Is an additional encryption tool need for Google email? - No, you just turn on "require https" from the control panel
4.) If we put children's names and other demographic information on the calendars, is it secure? - Yes - just make sure your settings don't shoe that to the outside - share Free/Busy only
5.) If we decide to use the forms and data collection functions of Google, is it secure? - Yes - see #2
6.) Is there any documentation to support that Google Apps are secure? - See the FAQ's and the security whitepaper 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What We Know to be True About Best Instructional Practices

A group of us have been reading up on best practices in instruction based on research and have been looking for common themes and/or terminology. At the same time we have been investigating how those fit into the Danielson framework. Based on that research I have been trying to cross reference all of it to come up with a common statement that describes the best practices and philosophies that will help to lay groundwork for each domain.

Here is what I have so far:


Planning and Preparation

Developing clear intentional goals that are designed through understanding data that leads to action

Classroom Environment

A cooperative and collaborative learning community that is focused on objectives, feedback, and effort.

Professional Responsibilities

Shared leadership that uses care, reflection, and best practices to advance each member of the learning community.


Challenging, engaging, and personalized instruction that develops understanding to extend and apply knowledge.


What are your thoughts? 
Did I overlook anything? 
How would you make it better?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Enhancing Technology Proposals

Over the past couple of years we have "tightened our belts" across the district. The technology budget and plan is dedicated to maintaining current technology. Yet we still want to encourage our teachers to create and enhance instruction with technology - especially using best practices. 

To encourage this we have begun a process called "Enhancing Technology Proposals" (here is the template for the requests: The goal of this is to allow teachers to propose innovate ways to use technology in an action research format. This will accomplish a few things:

  1. There has to be some investment in the plan behind the instructional change
  2. The focus is on instruction and research
  3. We should learn from data gathered from the project 
With limited funding this should help us find the best ideas that are prepared to impact instruction.

Here is the email that went out today to department chairs to begin the process:
There have been several requests this year for adding additional technologies in various areas around the district. As you know, the current technology plan only has funds for maintaining current technology. However, the Cabinet would like to receive proposals for new technology enhancements that may improve instruction.
Proposals for next year (or future years) can be submitted to the Cabinet by completing this proposal form ( and sending it back to me by April 27th of this year. The proposal format is designed to favor ideas that are built around best practices of instruction and are research based. Teachers are encouraged to work on proposals, but the proposal must be submitted by an administrator.
There is no guarantee that we will be able to fund any of the proposals we receive, but we are open to reviewing them and trying to find creative ways to make some of them happen.
What process do you use for these types of requests and how to you ensure they are instructional in nature?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Teacher Preparation - Start with the learner

As I reflect more of the vision of what I was presented with in my teacher preparation and in the courses that I have taught as a professor, the more I realize that although we teach great ideals we really do not spend enough time getting teachers ready for what needs to be done in education today. The practical matters would have been much more helpful as I started my career and I believe our new teachers need a change in focus as well. It took me several years to understand what went on in the classroom was not about me, it was about my students. Everything we talked about in teacher preparation was about me as the teacher and did not focus nearly enough on student needs, growth, or results. I believe that now we are better at explaining those goals to future teachers, however we still have many teachers that joined the profession with entirely different purposes or training.

I think it is essential to respect that teaching has developed into a much different endeavor than what most veteran teachers signed up for. Teaching has evolved into more of a student centered and skill based challenge than what it was fifteen, or more, years ago. Many teachers entered the profession because they were successful in a traditional school environment and wanted to go back to the cultures and values where they excelled and were celebrated. I believe that very few went into this profession knowing that everything was about to change and the spotlight would be redirected to school and teacher accountability. Our best teachers focus on student needs, growth, and achievement - however, it takes many teachers years to understand the craft well enough to focus more on what the kids are doing than what the teacher is executing during the day.

We fall into the same trap as we offer staff development and are often more focused on the topic than advancing the skills of our teachers. As an administrator who has a large responsibility for staff development I am constantly conscious of the fact that the changes we are making in school are very uncomfortable for teachers. Many are not used to being challenged at school within a culture they may have believed was static and unchanging. I have the added task of infusing and teaching technology skills that are fresh to everyone and are received with a variety of acceptance and background knowledge. They keys, to making such staff development work in my experience, are clearly delineated in the text: careful planning and follow-up. Many times I have seen staff development poorly prepared for and constructed with no goals of what will be done with the topic when the training is over. I have never quite understood why assessment and evaluation is disregarded after the time and effort is put into training staff. Perhaps if staff were sure that the topic was there to last, they would take it seriously from the start. If teacher learning and use of the materials and skills were evaluated the school might ensure that teachers and administrators saw the goals through. If the student outcomes were measured we could determine if everything we did was worth the effort that was invested.

It is time to focus on the learner in all settings.